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2001 fuel-cell minivan: Chrysler Town & Country Natrium

The Chrysler Town & Country Natrium was a concept car that ran on sodium borohydride, a clean, nonflammable, and recyclable fuel. The car was part of a ride-and-drive at the Pentagon, at the request of the acting Secretary of the Navy.

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The Natrium was designed to extract hydrogen from sodium borohydride; the hydrogen was then burned. Sodium borohydride is related to borax, a mineral abundant in the United States; it can be rehydrogenated and used again for fuel. Without losing any interior space, the Natrium had a claimed range of 300 miles.

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Bernard Robertson, in charge of research, wrote, "This unique technology could have great benefits for the military: in particular, it is nonflammable, greatly improving safety in battle zones, and the main ingredient can be transported as a dry powder, dramatically reducing the enormous logistical demands of fueling our military in advanced battle settings."

The U.S. armed forces had expressed interest in alternative-fuel vehicles to increase the military's future mobility, with better fuel economy and range, and less dependence on oil. As for sodium borohydride, it appears to have been at technological dead end; the Natrium was the first and last Chrysler concept using it.

Main concept cars page. • Alternative fuels

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Concept cars are often made so a car's feel can be evaluated, problems can be foreseen, and reactions of the public can be judged. Some concepts test specific ideas, colors, controls, or materials - either subtle or out of proportion, to hide what's being tested. Some are created to help designers think "out of the box." The Challenger, Prowler, PT Cruiser, and Viper were all tested as production-based concepts dressed up to hide the production intent.

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